Sunday, June 26, 2011

#342: On the Eternal Joy of Stomping in Puddles

I have always loved storms. I think it started the first time I read Moby Dick. The idea of pacing the decks of the Pequod while the wind and the sea raged about me aroused my imagination. I used to pace on our front porch during rain storms, the typhoon whipping the ropes of our canvas awnings as the waves broke over the steps and washed up against the front door of our land-locked house. Many years later, I had the opportunity to be in an actual storm at sea. The waves were so high that the sky disappeared. We lost sight of everything but the walls of water that surrounded us. I have never puked so much or so helplessly, not even during chemo. I learned that day that I prefer my tempests on land.

This morning, I awoke to flashing lights in the bedroom. At first I thought there might be an ambulance on the street, then I heard the thunder and realized that it was storming outside, just in time for my long run. I have managed to avoid running in the rain so far this summer. Sometimes I wait the weather out, but mostly, we've just had a really dry month.

Waiting wasn't really an option today. My schedule is full and putting the run off would mean putting it off till tomorrow. With my first 10K race just 8 days away, I didn't want to mess around with my training schedule, random though it may be. So I got dressed in the dark, had a cup of coffee and a Cliff bar, fed the dogs, and headed out into the early morning mist.

I was greeted by one of the biggest bolts of lightening I can ever remember seeing. It branched out across more than a quarter of the horizon like a gigantic, jagged talon reaching down to pluck trees out of the ground. I thought of the storms I had watched over the Pacific. Then I thought of the long, treeless stretch of my run along the ball field where I would be the highest point in the area. Stirring up my resolve, and trying to be as non-conductive as possible, I decided to press on ahead.

Today's rain was more of a light summer shower than a typhoon, and the lightening soon stopped. I was quickly soaked, and pressed on my warm-up a little, just to get warm. Approaching the start of my planned route, I realized that I was wearing my Nike+ gizmo, but had left my watch at home. The little keeper ring that holds down the end of the band was ripped off and I put it off to the side until I could replace the band. In all the morning's excitement, I forgot to put it on.

Forgetting the watch matters because it is the beeping pest that tells me when it's time to take walk breaks. I considered going back to the house for it, but the challenge of battling the dogs at the gate (Clare has turned into quite the escape artist) was more than I was willing to take on at 6:30 in the morning. I decided to go without it, and trust my body to tell me when it was time to take a break and to run. This didn't work to badly, though I did not take nearly enough breaks in the first two miles, and my later splits slowed down as a result.

I don't think I saw another soul during the whole 7 miles, except for a guy delivering papers who greeted me in a loud friendly voice. We exchanged "Good Morning"s and continued on our separate ways. There were lots of bunnies out playing in the wet grass, and at one point, a large brown shadow swooped down out of the trees at me. For a moment I thought I was being attacked by a bat, but when it landed, I saw that it was only a clump of dead leaves, still attached to a twig of a branch.

Here's some great news. Puddles are still great fun, even at 50. And early in the morning, before anyone is awake to see you, splashing in them isn't embarrassing at all. I highly recommend it.

My early breaks were short jogs, then after about 4 miles, I started walking every few minutes.I tried to do what I had learned: rest before you need to. There was no huffing and puffing, no pounding chest, no aching legs. Just the easy rhythm of run/walk/run as my feet patted along the wet pavement and the rain cooled me so that I barely sweated at all.

My long runs have been getting progressively shorter as I prepare for the race on the 4th, so the end of 7 miles came as a surprise to me. It didn't seem that I ran nearly long enough to go so far. When I got home, I uploaded the data from my sportband and found that I had just run my fastest 5K and my fastest 10K ever. I'm excited by the progress I'm making, and can't wait to see how the extra boost of race day affects my performance.

Somebody said yesterday that I was an inspiration: to be running after all I've been through. I'm not going to lie to you. I like the attention and the praise. but I really think people give me too much credit. While my doctors fought the cancer, and God healed my soul, I just hung on for the ride. All I really did was decide not to die. The rest just sort of happened around me. Yes, it is a miracle that I'm alive. I know that and will always be grateful. But it is a miracle that you are alive, too. You have survived troubles that might have killed other people. You have chosen to live when it would have been easier to give up. You are more strong and more loved than you can possibly imagine. We have that in common.

We are all like a Fat Man Running, lifting one foot after the other, in spite of all the reasons life gives us to stop moving. I'm just running for my life. I hope you keep running too. Even when it rains.

After all, you're never too old to stomp in puddles now and then.



  1. Another great post. I'll be stomping in puddles soon as well. Good luck on July 4!

  2. I think I will try that in the morning. Tank & Toto won't mind. Good Luck on the 4th!


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